Archive | April, 2013

5k/10k Fun

30 Apr

I can’t say enough good things about local community run 5 and 10ks. I’ve been double teaming my weekends with short runs and it’s been nothing but a blast. Sure, there are some tricky courses out there. Even some of the innocuously advertised “this-is-a-fun-park-run” runs can pack some challenges (e.g. the park based 5k I ran on April 20th essentially began at the base of a giant hill) and can make you feel totally beat. But that’s the fun of it, no?

This season, I’ve been all over the state of New Jersey. As someone who considers herself interested in managing the carbon footprint, I am a little ashamed to admit that I’ve been driving like a maniac on weekends to get to some of these races. But, eh, at the end of the day I kinda feel like it’s worth it, especially if you’re carpooling…which, of course, I know you are. There’s always something great about traveling across the state and watching the landscape change and open up before you. As someone who has traveled frequently throughout other parts of the world, I honestly feel like the roadtrip is one of those quintessentially American experiences.

At any rate, here’s a list of some of my season highlights:

10K, March 23, 2013: 56:01.30

10K, April 7, 2013: 55:11.46

5K, April 20: 25:28.15

5K April 27: 24:56.30

And, just as my time was slipping down, I headed out to the hills, quite literally. A friend and I decided to take a drive south west of the big city for Run the Vineyards during which we hit some serious inclines, grassy meadows and sandy, rocky terrain. Okay, so now that I have finished prefacing this, I tell you, my time….another 5k but this time 27:18.30. Ewww! Embarrassing, but at least my country jaunt afforded me the opportunity to take photos of some chickens.

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and to purchase a giant discounted sack of vino!

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If you’re looking for some feel good events (i.e. the ones where you meet fun and interesting people) I recommend the following races, available throughout the country:

Run for Congo Women: http://www.runforcongowomen.org/ (this is typically a seasonal run but you can create a virtual event year-round)

Race for the Cure: http://www.komencny.org/komen-race-for-the-cure/ (obvious but true, this run is always supported by great locals)

AIDS Walk NY: https://www.kintera.org/faf/teams/registerTeam.asp?ievent=1052727&lis=1&kntae1052727=019D76DA70D64CC59EC21891DB926A47&teamAction=join

and, finally, not a community event per se, but Virtual Run for Boston, going on now through May 27, 2013:

http://www.active.com/running/any-city-dc/virtual-run-for-boston-marathon-victims-2013

Don’t let me stop you, there are plenty of good ones out there. You just need to find a cause and get to it!

In which I get some new pants

30 Apr

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Throughout my life I’ve often been “that person”. You know, the one who can’t seem to figure out why or how all the pencils she put in her backpack didn’t make it to school (yes, that was totally me in 4th grade math writing assignments in with a yellow crayon–the discarded one found in the corner of the classroom). I was the kid without gym sneakers that fit properly, with the hair tied too tightly, with the tights that kept  sagging in the bottoms, with toothpaste in her hair, with lunch that leaked all over her homework and with the umbrella that blew inside out during a rainstorm. Yes, friends, this has been my life.

Based on my previous postings, you can probably tell that I am also the same person who’s made it into adulthood experiencing moments of grave distress upon arriving in yoga class only to discover the hard way that: no, these are not the pants with an intact crotch, in fact, they are, ripped through the bum. So, determined to move beyond this long-standing sense of self-loathing, I decided to buy myself some pants…or, just shorts for that matter. Everyone has to start somewhere. To illustrate this point, I attach the following, unfortunate image of my baseline (aka my ripped pants):

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If the above embodies your approach to workout wear and if you’re like me, you probably don’t want/have time to read an exceptionally long article on how and why to buy a pair of pants for highly active sports, such as running. So, I’ll try to make it easy. Here are a few ground rules:

1.) No cotton.  I know! Cotton feels nice whereas spandex-y microfibers can make you feel like a baby seal stuffed tightly into its skin, but newsflash: cotton is NOT aerodynamic! And, from experience, I have learned that it can seriously annoy the insides of your thighs on longer runs. So, if your plan is to achieve more than a 5k, opt for something with glide.

2.)  Try it on or measure it out. The biggest temptation for me is to order this stuff online because it’s quicker. There have totally been a zillion times where I’ve bought something online to save time. In the end I’ve just ended up losing money because it doesn’t fit and the product totally wasn’t what I thought it would be. I also get distracted and forget to return the product. Hence, I have been left with a drawer of ill-fitting sports bras for years. At any rate, if there’s a fit guide on the site, read it. If there’s a measurement guide, use it. Otherwise, go and test this stuff out downtown. There really is no substitute for knowing and don’t kid yourself into thinking otherwise.

3.) Not too loose. If it’s too loose now, it will only ride down on you during a run. This is just plain old annoying. And, if you’re trying to cut down on a run time, it will only hold you up.

4.) Look for products with microfiber or something that says moisture wick. I typically think most of this stuff is all just a gimmick to make you feel as though you’ve invested in a superior product, but I kind of buy into the whole microfiber thing. Finding good absorptive materials is key. Should it rain or should you sweat excessively, there’s probably nothing worse than the feeling of being damp…which always seems to leave me with a sick chilly feeling.

5.) To compress or not to compress? This is the question. I have seen contradictory reports on compression socks. Even on the same websites and blogs. I am totally torn on this issue, readers. Basically, compression supports muscles and allegedly increases blood flow to help speed recovery. Some research suggests it’s actually best to pull on compression hose after a good run as it’s most effective for during that time. Although my fiance loves to tell me I have a WebMD (haha…not, I’m not laughing, actually. have you ever checked out that site? It’s like you either have a brain tumor or a bruise and there is never any in between with them…it’s so, so scary!). The short of my point is that I have essentially no understanding of anything scientific. Seeing as this is the case, I invite you to play around with cuffs and socks only if you’ve got the cash to spare (they seem to start a $40 and go up from there).

After some shopping around and returning, here are my top picks for running/activewear:

1.) REI Airflyte Running Capri Pants. Available online at REI.com. These run a little small, so I’d order two sizes or go and try them on. Here they are featured on the website:

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…and on this blogger during my run last weekend (below and to the left).

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2.) For full length pants, I like Nike Tech Tights. They give you that seal-like feel mentioned above, but get over it. Something about being all compressed feels kind of good on the trail.

3.) And, as far as shorts are concerned, I really love these Under Armour shorts.  I totally feel like a walking endorsement for Under Armour, but I’m kind of on roll with them right now. These shorts were just the right amount of tight and nothing but good. I’m not pulling them up or down when I run and they are…you guessed it, compression shorts! Yay! It may be a placebo, but I feel so amazingly agile in these suckers. Like, I’m not even sure what I’m doing in the picture featured below, but I totally blame it on the combination of my shorts and CEP compression socks. I was basically bouncing off the walls at both of my 5ks this weekend.

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In short, these investments may be worth the upgrade. I am not suggesting you all go out there and start burning up your credit cards, but good gear can make you feel a bit better about your practice. For me, at least, there is nothing quite like knowing you can run like the wind without having to worry whether or not you’re blowing in it instead.

; )

Beet/Beat down to your soul

26 Apr

photo (10)Apart from being an incredibly corny title, I’d like to dedicate tonight’s post to being beat/beet (in my case, physically by a strangely intense night of yoga), and, to eating beets by way of cooking them into an amazing quinoa salad. The evening started out simply enough: with me running out of work, dashing down the pavement in high heels in hopes of reaching my car and beating the traffic in time to get to yoga.

Of course, by the time I arrived at yoga, I realized the following: I did not have a hair tie, a sports bra, the yoga pants without a hole in the crotch, or any conceivable way to cleanse my terribly smelly feet (I have decided to wage war against pantyhose in the spring and summer time…I now go commando in my shoes, and I’m not afraid to admit it–unless we are together in yoga class). Rather than turning around and going home, I made the executive decision to attend class despite these minor setbacks. Little did I know that tonight’s session would not be a cool after hours wind-down. What I walked into was full-contact yoga. And, I have the bruises to prove it.

Class started out innocuously enough with the usual suspects: plank, down dog, cobra, etc. What I wasn’t expecting was this:

…the emergence of Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya I.

Yah.  The name says it all, right? And from the looks of it, you can clearly see it’s right up there with child’s pose (this is me being facetious in case you can’t tell).

At any rate, I’m pretty good on my hands. Or so I like to think.

I’ve got a pretty good bakasana going on and I can hold my own when it comes to Parsva Bakasana, but as to the image above…I’ve never even tried it. I don’t know if you’re like me but sometimes, I can’t let go of the idea that there’s something out there I can’t accomplish because it’s not in my skill set yet. I’m impatient and I need to do.

While ambition drives me professionally, it is also kind of… well, crazy. And, ambition is how I got beat by yoga tonight. In my desperate attempts to nail this pose the first time, I ended up bearing too much weight on my biceps. I got myself into something that I believe resembled this pose…and even earned some oooo’ing and ahhh’ing among fellow classmates who were struggling to take the first steps toward achieving this strange contortion. Haha! I thought, I got it!  But, I later bore the brunt of my pride.

Less than four hours later and I am already rocking some tres awesome purple blotches on the backs of my arms. Tonight’s lesson: try to be badass in yoga, and you will get your ass kicked. After returning home with some seriously sore muscles, I turned to dinner for solace.

Since I’m training for a half marathon (to be completed, hopefully without as much hubris as my ill-fated yoga class, in two weeks’ time) I have been trying to eat pure, whole foods. I completed a practice half  marathon a week ago after a night filled with white wine, seafood and dairy…and I’ve been traumatized ever since. I did pretty good, but my stomach was in agony afterwards.

In furtherance of my efforts to purify pre-run, I’ve been trying to limit dairy and animal products…and when possible, alcohol : ) Tonight, in celebration of my burgeoning bruises and because I had an uneaten bag of frozen beets in the fridge, I decided upon this ‘Quinoa, Beet and Arugula Salad’  dish, accessible at: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/quinoa-beet-and-arugula-salad/. I liked this recipe because it was really simple. Plus, I saw that some of the ingredients could be easily substituted.

Instead of using olive oil, I used canola oil and I substituted goat cheese with almond cheese (I know it’s not the most appetizing thing, but when heated, it totally does the trick). Also, instead of waiting that hour and a half suggested by the authors of the recipe, I decided to make it a warm salad and made it in about half an hour. This means, I didn’t waste time conserving half of the dressing until after the quinoa had cooled. Instead, I dumped it all together the minute the quinoa had finished. I mixed in some spinach instead of arugula so it would warm up nicely. Additionally, I did not peel and steam the beets myself. Instead, I used some frozen beets, threw them on defrost in the microwave until warm and mixed them into the steaming quinoa. What resulted was a hot, healthy and hearty dinner.

And, if my endorsement isn’t enough, check out this article from the NY Times. Accordingly, beets are a great source of folate and may contain antioxidants that naturally fight cancer. So beet that!

With a little extra cracked pepper on top of my warm salad, I was beet down to my soul, and I think you will be too…

…Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some serious bruises to tend to!

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In all things, balance and intention

26 Apr

When I ran my first post April-15th race last weekend, the moment of silence offered beforehand left me with a lump in my throat so large, I don’t know how I fought it down as I began to run.  Although it was only a 5k, I think it was a PR for me. Seeing as this blog is yoga-influenced, I hesitate to say my snappy performance was fueled by rage and an iPod filled with Dropkick Murphys…so, instead, I’ll just say I was powered by a great inner fire. In channeling that “fire” I began to think about the great need for all of us to keep our intentions in check. And, in this case, I believe it is not only important for all of us to keep running (as so many of the popular slogans that have evolved out of this crisis remind us to do) but also to keep our thoughts with those who have suffered.

I once read a book by Deepak Chopra (okay, fine! laugh all you want) in which he cites a study conducted on a group of patients in a hospital who are all ill with the same disease. Without their knowledge, one half of the group of patients had an individual (whom they did not know) who was assigned to pray for their recovery. The other half of the patients were not assigned someone who would pray for their recovery. After a period of several weeks, the study found that those patients who were kept in the intentions of a stranger experienced a recovery that was vastly better than their lonely counterparts.

In yoga, we talk about focusing our intentions all the time. We talk about the need to draw on our inner power and the need to do good. Similarly, I recently listened to an interview on NPR in which an experienced runner told the newscaster that she hoped the “karmic balance of running could be restored.” I can’t find the interview but it was an important point. There’s been so much talk about needing to get runners back out on the ground to start pounding the pavement in defiance of the bombings (which, I admittedly did). But, while it is necessary to get out there and reclaim the roads, it is also important to do so with a certain mindfulness. If you’re like me, I suggest you get the rage (or…ahem…fire) out of your system and then come back to your core, your center and send your best intentions out to all of those who have experienced great loss.

If you’re looking for a way to get started and to calm your mind, I found this article from Yoga Journal to be helpful: http://www.yogajournal.com/wisdom/926

They’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again:

Stay strong Boston.

From N.J. with love.

Photo from businessinsider.com

Coming Down is the Hardest Thing

7 Apr

I have a confession to make, the first being that I am well-aware that I’ve shamelessly lifted lyrics from a Tom Petty song…I know it’s corny, but it feels so appropriate for this post. My second confession is that I really love delving into exciting new endeavors. Whether they be work-related, yoga-related or food-related, I’ve always been addicted to good things when I find them. Lately, I’ve slipped into such a steady workout routine that it’s been hard to quit.  For a few weeks now, I’ve fallen into what felt like a seamless schedule encompassing multiple workouts in a single day.  I know! I know! It’s nuts but, until quite recently, it’s been really great.

I’ve been rising on time, getting myself to spin class by 5:45am, then returning home, banging out some weight lifting reps and heading off to work. After work, I’ve been feeling so energized that I have consistently taken off on long runs before dashing to a yoga or cross-training class. For the first week or two, I felt awesome. I am gearing up for a half marathon in May, so I figured training hard is the only way to prepare. But, alas, I was wrong.

Toward the beginning of this week I started to feel a little weak, and then, by Wednesday, my muscles were so sore and fatigued that I was basically falling asleep at the job. By Thursday afternoon, I felt positively, absolutely, rotten but, nevertheless, pushed myself through a timed 5k. I finished and felt downright beat. On Friday, I felt like a walking zombie. I came home and crashed early. I dove into bed at 8:30PM and woke the following day at 11:00AM. Soooo unlike me!

In answer to the question: What’s up with that? I did a little research.

Turns out that over-exercising can have major impacts on your hormone levels. Doh! Of course! Overdoing it can cause your body to go into overdrive. It can keep you awake at night when you should be asleep. It can make you crabby when exercise should make you happy. And, it can even, get this, weaken your immune system! Worst of all, it can leave the muscles you work during exercise sore and painful for days at a time. Ugh. Bummer.

So, what was I to do? If you’re like me, you find it insanely hard to stop moving. Fortunately, yesterday I had the good sense to know that it was really time for some much needed rest.

I went back to the basics. In yoga, the goal is balance. Both physical and mental.  In fact, according to B.K.S. Iyengar, the word itself means “to yoke”, or to unite body and mind in a single practice.  How had I allowed myself to get so far out of whack that I’d worked myself to near exhaustion? I was filled with a sense of disappointment.

Having nothing else to do but move forward, I took up some restorative yoga poses (you know, the ones you hate because you aren’t being physically active enough while doing them).

If you’re feeling overwhelmed this week, and need to chill out, please do so!  Even if you’re not feeling totally smoked yet, take some time for yourself and recover. Please do not end up as exhausted as me. In the case you heed my advice, I recommend the following:

  • After you’ve calmed down with some yoga, why not spend time in the shower? (those early morning scrub downs are not doing you justice!)
  • Finally, make a cup of tea and get the hell into bed (EARLY!!!).  I recommend brewing anything that appeals to you by Traditional Medicinals.  My favorite calming tea is Organic Ginger Aid (pictured below).

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After partaking in the aforementioned routine, I felt somewhat cured. Namely, it was sleep (and lots of it) that my body craved. I slept for a long, long time. When I woke up this morning, I found my muscle pain had diminished so significantly that even I was impressed that a little relaxation had the power to do the trick.

What I learned from this experience is as follows: Life is really short. Sometimes you need to give yourself the power to feel tired, to feel weak and to engage in restorative practices. Be honest with yourself and follow your needs.

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to treat or diagnose any medical problems. It is purely informational. Any statements contained above are not designed to replace the care and recommendations of your physician.

Lock and Load

3 Apr

Dear Female Readers,

We all know that whatever you decide to do with your cleavage outside the gym, or off the track, or outside yoga class is your business. But when you enter these spaces, I am sure that no one wants to look or feel like Dolly Parton.

 

I suppose I could be mistaken but, last time I checked, it’s way hard to focus and give your workout 110% if your…err…preoccupied. I have tried endlessly to find the perfect workout bra. I’ve had some luck feeling buckled down and under control with Adidas sportswear and would recommend their bras somewhat. However, in the last four months, I’ve been buying undergarments like a madwoman and nothing has really done the trick. Either I’m suffocating under an immense rubber band, or I look like I’m wearing a corset, or, I’m about…to… lose…something  I am not interested in sharing with the public.

This was the unfortunate story until I happened upon an Under Armour bra in Sports Authority. I was in a rush and had forgotten proper clothing for a  post-workday workout class. I hurriedly stumbled into the store, grabbed the first reasonably supportive looking bra I could find. I snatched other necessities and headed to the checkout.

I later realized the bra was a great find. After ordering several more, I can say with a high degree of confidence that you will be satisfied as well. There is a lot to choose from regardless of body type.  You can even watch videos on the Under Armour website explaining the lengths to which they’ve  gone to ensure that nothing falls out as you’re springing forward this season!

Spring into Change and Challenge Your Perspective

3 Apr

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Hello and please allow me to reintroduce myself. I feel I’ve failed you in not delivering a more constant stream of posts. Now I am back and hopefully, it’s for good. It’s officially springtime…actually, spring began on March 20, 2013, the date of the vernal equinox. I’m going to get a little philosophical here before I get down to business, but even when it doesn’t feel like it outside, springtime has always been an important state of mind. Ever since I was a little kid, the disintegration of winter served as such a powerful sign of hope. In the Judeo-Christian faiths, we celebrate important miracles and remember that as humans we are deeply connected not only to the earth but, possibly, to something beyond it.

Through my yoga practice, I feel my beliefs in this life force have strengthened and, although sometimes it’s a great struggle, have helped to open my mind and body to change. For me, the month of March marked a time period during which I took time off from work to reconnect to the things I love, to travel and reflect. During these last few months, I’ve been consumed with one professional endeavor after another. It gets to be really draining. Which is why, when I was presented with the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia, I jumped on it. The trip was a drain on my savings, but it was well worth every cent. Traveling, especially to far off places is a challenge as much as it is a blessing. But challenges are good, right? I want to avoid sounding terribly cliché, but I truly believe that taking time away from anything in your life that has become easy or part of a routine is a good thing.

In yoga we always talk about inversions about being a physical way to change your perspective. I don’t have the sources for you right now, but studies have been done (or so asserts my favorite yoga teacher) that holding a head or handstand can actually lift your mood because it changes your perspective. Handstands are challenging. But why? Because they demand all your focus and energy. When you travel or embark on a new activity you are challenged. The doldrums of your routine evaporate and the brain is totally transfixed and consumed. You are transported to a new place and time where everything feels…and, is, possible.

In celebration of spring, I invite all of my readers to try something challenging. You will likely find that a good challenge will get you going in the gym and may provide fire to improve your performance during your regular workout routine. If you’re stuck, here are some ways I’ve thought of recommending challenges for people in my life who seem very afraid to take them (p.s. I don’t give out larger life advice here, I just try to inspire you physically and boost your sense of adventure… don’t expect any business tips from me):

  • Sign up for a race – so many people I know seem to be terrified of participating in a competitive running or other athletic event and I have no idea why. When you have a goal in mind, you’ll be tempted to push yourself harder in anticipation of the big event and the payoff will seem even sweeter.
  • Get outside – check out Map My Hike and hit the trials. Do I even need to enumerate the benefits of getting some sunlight?  http://www.mapmyhike.com/
  • Stop saying you don’t have the skills – one friend I have finds a reason not to attend any new fitness classes ever because she insists she is simply “not good at (insert activity name here)”
  • Take a class – after sitting for the bar exam, I felt totally bereft and couldn’t quite figure out what to do with my aching mind. I skimmed my town’s community school catalogue and found an amazingly cheap bi-weekly Chinese class was being offered for three months…sure, I still can’t speak lick of Mandarin but it was…you guessed it…a challenge.
  • Volunteer – seriously, you must have some skill you could teach a child at your local Boys and Girls club. Or, maybe you could sort cans once a weekend at a food pantry. I hate the word charity as it implies an activity that is only done by the most benevolent people. Volunteering is something I believe we all have a civic duty to undertake. Humans helping other humans is empowering. After all we are all inexorably linked to one another and it’s important to remember.
  • Start planning your next escape – even if you don’t have the cash to get away this minute, making a plan to do so can give you something to look forward to. If you’ve got the time and resources, why not get out of your comfort zone (within reason) and see a part of the world you’ve never seen before.

So, what are you waiting for? What will you do this spring?

I hope it’s something you enjoy.

I leave you with a photograph from my trip to Lalibela, an ancient site of Christian pilgrimage and a place that moved me deeply…both spiritually and physically as I scaled the rocky climb down into its churches and up again into the mountains above.

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: )